Guards face NT youth justice commission

A male former Northern Territory prison guard who forcibly held a young girl down while she was stripped to her underwear has called it standard “procedure”.


Former Don Dale Youth Detention Centre shift supervisor Trevor Hansen told the NT juvenile justice royal commission he restrained a misbehaving 15-year-old girl face down on a cement bed as a female colleague removed her clothes to prevent self harm.

Mr Hansen said at the time of the incident in 2009 there was no guidelines in place restricting a male guard from taking part in the undressing of a young female detainee.

“It was procedure,” he told the commission in Alice Springs on Monday.

“The clothing was removed so they couldn’t use those garments to hang themselves.”

The girl received a lump on her cheek when she hit her head whilst being held and wanted to press charges against Mr Hansen, but police never interviewed him.

In 2012, another 15-year-old girl claimed Mr Hansen threw her to the ground of a cell and locked the girl’s legs behind her buttocks for refusing to leave an exercise yard.

The young inmate said she couldn’t breathe properly, sustained injuries to her foot and bruising to her ribs.

Mr Hansen said the incident was investigated but no one in the chain of command had any issue with his conduct.

“The messy nature of the way we had to bring her inside makes you look at yourself in that regard, and the way things were done,” Mr Hansen said.

“There was a struggle and she was fighting all the way through. You want to take them in without injuring them, and that did not happen.”

Mr Hansen denied ever directly strip searching girl detainees or threatening to, but said chronic short-staffing meant he was needed to be in the same room to protect the sole female officer conducting the search.

He worked in NT corrections for a decade until his retirement in 2014 and said he received limited training.

The inquiry heard from three current and former youth inmates who painted a disturbing picture of abuse and prolonged isolation.

Former inmate Jamal Turner said there were no interpreters provided for children from indigenous communities who had difficulty speaking English, and some white guards called them “dumb black kids.”

“Most of us that come out of detention come out more angry and acting tough than when we went in,” the 20-year-old, who is in custody said.

“It didn’t make me want to be a better person.”

A current Don Dale inmate identified as BC said prison guards treat the young people “like dogs” and there was a lack of adequate schooling, training or post-release planning.

“I had to grow up on the streets. I want to do something with my life and education would help me,” he said.

A former detainee identified as BF said when he broke his collarbone from a sports injury guards guards ignored his complaints, and it took three days for him to be taken to the hospital.

He called for culturally-informed activities and counselling.

“I think that 80 per cent of the detainees like me needed someone to talk to…. I saw some kids lost without culture,” he said.

Counsel assisting the commission Tony McAvoy SC said politicians who oversaw “a system of disarray and despair”, will also face the inquiry over the next three weeks.